Hello! My name is Danielle Bennetsen, and I am a dietetic intern at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). I had the opportunity to complete my community rotation at the Galveston County Food Bank for 4 weeks in January of 2023. During my time at the food bank, I was able to have many wonderful and diverse experiences that have enriched my intern experience on such a significant level. I was exposed to multiple aspects of community nutrition on differing levels, which was wonderful and eye-opening for me.
In my first week at GCFB, I learned about the wide variety of curriculums, such as MyPlate for My Family and Cooking Matters, that are used for nutrition education classes. Additionally, I learned about programs like Healthy Eating Research (HER), Farmer’s Market, and Healthy Corner Store that are utilized at the food bank. I was actually able to visit the corner store in San Leon that they are currently partnered with to install a survey box for assessment of the community’s needs. In that time, I was intrigued to learn about changes that could be made in the store to further support the initiative of providing greater access to fresh foods in the community.
During my second week, I observed multiple nutrition education classes where I saw how the MyPlate for My Family and Cooking Matters curriculums were utilized to teach families and middle school children, respectively. I really enjoyed watching the classes, assisting with the food demonstrations, and interacting with people in an educational manner. It was an experience I have not had before! At the end of the week, I attended Seeding Galveston’s farm stand where I helped prepare ingredients for the food demonstration we did. We made a warm winter salad using some leafy greens from Seeding Galveston, including chrysanthemum leaves. I was really excited for this as it was my first time trying chrysanthemum leaves, and I highly recommend them as an addition to salads!
My third week focused on having a greater presence in the nutrition education classes and visiting a few food pantries partnered with GCFB. We were able to visit Catholic Charities, UTMB’s Picnic Basket, and St. Vincent’s House to see how each pantry operated in their own way. Catholic Charities had what was essentially a full client choice setup. Because they of their layout, it felt more like grocery shopping in a store rather than receiving food from a pantry. There I was also able to see SWAP posters in action and how they are used in a full choice pantry. The Picnic Basket had a full choice setup as well but was much smaller in scale. Similar to the pantry at GCFB, St. Vincent’s House was more of a limited choice with specified items being bagged and given to clients. It was interesting for me to see the unique issues that different pantries face and how they work to resolve them on their own. I realized that there is no one-size-fits-all way to operate a pantry and absolutely depends on the needs of the client base. For one of the classes, I created and led a true/false activity which covered material regarding decreasing sodium intake. In the activity, there would be a statement related to the topic which people would guess was true or false. I didn’t expect to have so much fun interacting with people through such a small activity, but I really enjoyed getting to educate in a more interesting and exciting way.
In my last week at GCFB, I worked on creating an informational recipe card for the Picnic Basket at UTMB that contained basic information about dry lentils and how to cook them as well as an easy and simple chilled lentil salad recipe. Additionally, I filmed and edited a recipe video for the chilled lentil salad. I had so much fun creating the video and going through that process. It was definitely a lot of hard work, but I really loved being able to sharpen my cooking skills and utilize my creativity in a different way. I also led a family class on the topic of saturated and trans fats, which was nerve-wracking and invigorating. Through this, I realized just how much I joy I get from educating others about nutrition!
With all these experiences, I felt like I was able to see the many ways in which we can impact people’s lives through nutrition in the community. Every staff member at GCFB works hard to ensure people are fed across the county, and the nutrition education department takes a step further to constantly provide nutrition education in a multitude of ways. I loved working with every individual and am so grateful for the experiences I was afforded at GCFB. I genuinely enjoyed every minute of my time there, and it was an experience I will always carry with me!